Photo Credit: Lou Murray
The MHSAA Girls Basketball season is set to tip off this week, with teams all across the state ready for the first full season in two years. Our team at Michigan Sports Radio will have two articles a week (Wednesday and Saturday) with scores and stats around our coverage area, but we will begin our 2021-22 girls basketball season with a preview of over 20 of our teams.
Last Season: 15-4, lost in District Finals
Head Coach: Joel Brose (5th Season, 36-47)
Key Returners: Hannah Schroeder (All-State PG, Northwood Commit)
Notable Newcomers: Avery Jozwiak (Soph, 5’9”); Halle Steele (Soph, 5’10”)
Outlook: After a strong season, the Falcons will look to rebuild around Schroeder this winter. Coach Brose says this group is “very coachable and intelligent”, but they are inexperienced at the varsity level.
First Game: Tuesday 11/30 vs Whitehall
Byron Center Bulldogs
Last Season: 13-3, lost in District Semifinals
Head Coach: Jen Slot (9th Season, 115-52)
Key Returners: Avery Zeinstra (5’7” Sr, GVSU Commit); Cierra Laska (5’6” Sr); Lily Zeinstra (6’0” Soph); Makenna Crandell (5’8” Jr); Marie Baar (5’10” Sr); McKenna Ferguson (5’6” Jr)
Outlook: The Bulldogs put together an undefeated run in the OK White last year, and they figure to be competing for the crown once again this winter. Byron Center returns many key players from last year, with strength especially in the backcourt. “Each new team has its own unique chemistry”, Coach Slot explained. “If we can stay healthy and work hard for each other toward the same goal, we will be a tough team to play”. In addition to Avery Zeinstra, Lily Zeinstra and McKenna Ferguson have gained traction in recruiting circles. Cierra Laska will also play at the next level, as she signed to play softball at Central Michigan.
First Game: Tuesday 11/30 at East Kentwood
Caledonia Fighting Scots
Last Season: 3-13, lost in District Semifinals
Head Coach: Todd Bloemers (1st Season)
Key Returners: Gracie Gortmaker (Jr); Kiana Haywood (Soph); Morgan Babb (Sr); Theresa Abraham (Soph)
Notable Newcomers: Avah Winstrom (Jr); Cadence Bommarito (Jr); Kendall Maynard (Soph); McKenzie DeVries (Soph)
Outlook: Todd Bloemers was the head coach for Caledonia’s boys’ program between 2007-15. After spending the past few seasons as the JV girls coach, Bloemers will be back in the head position for the girls program. He inherits a team that struggled a year ago, playing just five games within ten points (2-3 record). “At a foundational level, we are trying to create winning habits and doing little things well”, Bloemers explained. “Playing in the challenging OK Red, we need to be consistent in our approach, both in preparing for the matchups and executing our plan. We are an athletic team and the girls have committed to bettering themselves this offseason.”
First Game: Friday 12/3 vs Covenant Christian
Central Montcalm Hornets
Last Season: 12-5, lost in District Quarterfinals
Head Coach: Rob Putnam (8th season, 104-46)
Key Returners: Courtney Guelzo (5’8” Sr, 5.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG); Emily Putnam (5’7” Soph, 6.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2 SPG); Kamryn Nicholson (5’0” Sr); Maia Sexton (6’2” Jr, 4.2 PPG, 7 RPG)
Notable Newcomers: Lauren Alexander (5’7” Jr); Zoey Bacon (5’2” Jr)
Outlook: The Hornets had a strong regular season last year, but they suffered an upset in the opening round of the playoffs against Ionia. This winter, they will bring back experience and a strong shooting crew to try and move the needle forward as a program.
First Game: Tuesday 11/30 at Greenville
East Grand Rapids Pioneers
Last Season: 14-3, lost in Regional Finals
Head Coach: Troy Hammond (5th season at EGR, 9th year overall, 76-11 at EGR, 116-37 overall)
Key Returners: Alli Carlson (5’6” Sr, WMU Commit); Allie Tol (5’7” Sr); Kate Sheridan (5’8’ Sr); Lizzie Lundeen (5’8”); Macy Brown (6’0” Jr, 14 PPG)
Notable Newcomers: Jasmine Honicutt (5’10” Jr); Reagan Weaver (5’9” Fr); VV Lamange (5’8” Soph)
Outlook: The Pioneers had a strong season last year, losing to eventual State Champion Hudsonville in the Regional Finals. This year, they bring back a number of key contributors on that team. Carlson will miss the season with a torn ACL, so Macy Brown, a junior with seven Big Ten offers, will be the star of this bunch. Lundeen started every game last year, and Sheridan is a three-point shooter who is on varsity for the fourth season. Tol will also see an expanded role with strong shooting abilities. “This is an athletic group with four different players that will play Division 1 sports that aren’t basketball”, Hammond shared. “It’s a hardworking group that has a lot to prove”. Coach Hammond’s bunch will challenge themselves with a daunting non-league slate before entering a fierce OK White campaign.
First Game: Friday 12/3 vs West Catholic
Last Season: 1-14, lost in District Quarterfinals
Head Coach: Josh Weimer (3rd Season, 7-29)
Key Returners: Abby Reyes (Jr); Ava Rosema (Sr); Elia Ruiz (Soph); Kallie Wyman (Soph); Madisynn Jefferson (Soph); Megan Seeback (Sr)
Notable Newcomers: Carmen Tencate (Sr); Christina Mendoza (Fr); Lila Rosema (Fr)
Outlook: The Blackhawks lost their first nine games last season, before a win against Eau Claire. Several players return from last year, as Fennville did not field a JV team, but they are a still a young core. “Continuous improvement is the goal,” Weimer shared. “Before we can focus on winning, we need to make sure we are putting forth a winning effort. Many of our girls went from eighth grade basketball to varsity last year. They understand this is a process. We are in a stage of delayed gratification, postponing immediate gain in hopes of a greater reward down the road.”
First Game: Tuesday 11/30 vs Comstock
Forest Hills Central Rangers
Last Season: 7-6, lost in District Quarterfinals
Head Coach: Kristina Prins (6th Season, 59-39)
Key Returners: Delaney Smith (Jr); Thea Sloat (Jr); Theryn Hallock (5’9” Sr, 23.4 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 4.2 APG, 6.6 SPG, 0.7 BPG, Michigan State commit)
Notable Newcomers: Jordan Koning (Fr); Maggie Sneider (So.); Maya Holser (Jr)
Outlook: The Rangers are an extremely young team, as they replace four starters, but Coach Prins believes that can be an advantage. “These girls don’t know much about the other players and programs in our area, so they just want to go out and work hard and win some basketball games.” FHC’s success this year will start with Theryn Hallock, a Miss Basketball candidate. “Theryn is a game changer, when she is on the court everyone has to change their game plan. She dominates the game from every facet,” Prins praised. “She excelled in big games last year, despite face guarded all season last year.” The addition of Jordan Koning as a pass-first point guard will complement Hallock’s play.
First Game: Friday 12/3 vs Wyoming
Forest Hills Northern Huskies
Last Season: 3-12, lost in District Semifinals
Head Coach: Jim Sprague (39-22, 4th Season)
Key Returners: Merideth Green (5’6″ Sr)
Notable Newcomers: Alli Cornell (5’7″ Jr); Vivien Enrico (5’10” Jr)
Outlook: The Huskies are an athletic bunch, but they are young. This team has two freshmen, two sophomores, six juniors and three seniors. “A focus on fundamental skill development and understanding what it takes to compete at a varsity level will be our immediate focus early in the year”, Sprague shared. “We are a young, athletic team. Our ability to rapidly understand what it takes to be competitive will be key to our development. Our focus is to work hard and get better every day.”
First Game: Thursday 12/2 at South Christian
Last Season: 5-13, lost in District Quarterfinals
Head Coach: Wes Zerlaut (3rd Season at Fremont, 12th season overall, 18-19 at Fremont)
Key Returners: Carle Bruggema (5’11” Jr); Haley Zerlaut (5’6” Sr, 6.8 PPG, 1.7 SPG); Jessica Bennett (5’11” Soph); Kaitlynn Bennett (6’0” Sr, 5.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG); Mia Witte (5’8” Sr)
Notable Newcomers: Lily Vandenberg (5’4” Soph); Julianne Hernandez (5’4” Jr); Sydney Moon (5’4” Jr)
Outlook: The Packers return some depth this season, as Zerlaut is in her fourth season and Bennett is playing her third varsity campaign. Fremont has good interior size, but they are small in numbers (just eight girls on the team). “The girls and working hard and getting better each day”, Wes Zerlaut shared. “If we can avoid injury, illness and foul trouble, this group will be very competitive.”
First Game: Tuesday 11/30 at Spring Lake
Last Season: 16-5, lost in Regional Finals
Head Coach: Travis Rosema (4th season, 48-21)
Key Returners: Aspen Boutell (5’5” Jr G, 7 PPG, 4 RPG, 4 SPG); Jayd Hovey (5’9” Sr PG, 15 PPG, 5 RPG, 5 SPG, 4 APG, 3x All-State HM, Indiana Wesleyan Commit); Mariana VanAgtmael (5’6” Jr, 6 PPG); Morgan Marvin (6’0” Sr, 7 PPG, 5 RPG, 2 BPG)
Notable Newcomers: Abby Hicks (5’7” Soph); Addi Hovey (5’10” Fr)
Outlook: The Pirates are coming off a run to the Regional Finals, and they return four starters from that team. Experience and a high basketball IQ run rampant through this team, as they have a knack for transition offense and defensive tenacity. Though they will be undersized in many games, they are a scrappy bunch.
First Game: Friday 12/3 vs Mason County Central
Last Season: 23-1, Division 1 State Champions
Head Coach: Casey Glass (178-102 record since 2009-10)
Key Returners: Alaina Diaz (Sr); Jaci Tubergen (Sr, Bowling Green Commit); Maddie Petroelje (Jr)
Outlook: The Eagles won their final 21 contests last year, capturing the school’s first State Championship with a 65-61 win over Detroit Renaissance. A program that is 45-2 over the past two seasons, expect the Eagles to be playing deep into March once again.
First Game: Friday 12/3 vs Mona Shores
Last Season: 10-7, lost in District Finals
Head Coach: Cory Timmer (1st Season)
Key Returners: Ella Haik (5’8″ Jr); Sam Timmer (5’11” Sr); Terin Maynard (5’5″ Jr, 14 PPG, 6 RPG, 3 APG, 2.2 SPG)
Outlook: Timmer takes over a team full of upper classmen that have a strong chemistry and work ethic that comes from playing multiple sports at a high level. Maynard looks to lead the way for this team, aiming to build off of her strong sophomore campaign. The Wildcats will look to improve on their fourth place position in a deep OK Red.
First Game: Tuesday 12/7 vs Byron Center
Kent City Eagles
Last Season: 21-1, lost in Division 3 State Championship Game
Head Coach: Aleah Holcomb (1st Season)
Key Returners: Emmalyn Geers (Sr); Lexie Bowers (Jr); Maddie Geers (Soph); Taryn Preston (Sr)
Notable Newcomers: Abby Pecynski (Jr); Denyle Bonter (Soph); Hailey Kamphuis (Fr); Lila Volkers (Fr); Savannah Miller (Jr); Sylvia Freeland (Soph)
Outlook: The Eagles made a remarkable run to Breslin Center last year, but they will now have to replace some key pieces. They do bring back a good core group of four that played big roles during last year’s Finals run, which will be vital for first-year Head Coach Aleah Holcomb.
First Game: Tuesday 11/30 at Muskegon
Lawton Blue Devils
Last Season: 3-10, lost in District Semifinals
Head Coach: Jeremy Macon (1st season)
Key Returners: Reese Olson (5’7” Soph); Sarah DeKoning (5’4” Sr)
Notable Newcomers: Addi Price (5’4” Soph); Ella Richter (5’9” Soph); Gabby High (5’7” Jr)
Outlook: First-year head coach Jeremy Macon likes the depth of his first Blue Devils crew. “We are very deep with several girls who could start on other teams,” Macon remarked. “We will play pressure defense and make teams uncomfortable. We are still a young team, and with 11 years since our last winning season, shifting the culture will take time.” Macon does get the benefit of DeKoning, the school’s all-time three-point field goal leader. They will be without McKenna Macon, a point guard, who has to sit out due to MHSAA Transfer rules. Macon feels the junior still is leaving her impact on the program in practice through her toughness and basketball IQ.
First Game: Tuesday 12/7 at Dowagiac
Lowell Red Arrows
Last Season: 8-10, lost in District Finals
Head Coach: Heath Kent (6th season at Lowell, 15th year overall, 56-47 at Lowell)
Key Returners: Braxcynn Baker (6’0” Soph, All-Conference); Emma Bruwer (5’8” Soph), Lexi Howell (5’10” Jr), Piper Risdon (6’1” Soph, All-Conference); Taryn Jackson (5’8” Soph)
Notable Newcomers: Mackenzie Munson (5’9” Jr)
Outlook: Last year, Lowell started four freshman and a sophomore. They all return with a full season of experience under their belt. An athletic team that is a strong shooting bunch, Lowell can push the tempo. They need to improve on the glass, but that will be tested repeatedly through a tough non-conference schedule and a strong OK White slate.
First Game: Tuesday 11/30 vs Cedar Springs
Mason County Eastern Cardinals
Last Season: 11-8, lost in District Finals
Head Coach: Jacob Smith (3rd season, 22-18)
Key Returners: Corinna Hernandez (5’6” Sr); Hillary Howe (5’6” Sr); Skylar Harry (5’5” Sr)
Notable Newcomers: Deanna Codman (5’3” Jr); Janessa Alvesteffar (5’10” Jr); Lucy Shoup (5’9” Fr)
Outlook: MCE will be a “Three-and-D” type of team, with strengths on defense and shooting from the perimeter. They return a pair of three-year starters in Hernandez and Howe, but they have a young group otherwise. “We need to meet the challenge of playing a high level on a consistent basis,” Smith remarked. ”We are mixing in young players with little varsity experience alongside experienced starters”. The Cardinals will compete in the West Michigan D League title race, and they have scheduled a tough non-league slate to prepare for that title march.
First Game: Friday 12/3 at Walkerville
Mona Shores Sailors
Last Season: 14-4, lost in Regional Semifinals
Head Coach: Mike Phillips (4th Season, 30-29)
Key Returners: Ali Phillips (5’4” Jr); Jenna Tierman (5’7” Sr, 4.2 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.7 APG); Khaleeya Cook (5’3” Soph); Lily Miller (6’2” Sr, UM-Dearborn Commit); Mia Brown (5’4” Sr); Olivia Sobczak (5’7” Sr, 9.9 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.6 APG)
Notable Newcomers: Kelcy Benedict (Jr); Lauren Hylland (Jr); Tia Norman (Soph)
Outlook: The Sailors have senior leadership paired with youthful optimism this winter. They return seven seniors that were a part of last season’s conference and district championship team, including 2-time All-Conference guard Olivia Sobczak. While the Sailors will be smaller than in years past, Coach Phillips’ bunch will be a hard-working crew that looks to repeat last year’s successes.
First Game: Tuesday 11/30 vs Forest Hills Eastern
Muskegon Catholic Central Crusaders
Last Season: 6-7, did not participate in MHSAA Tournament
Head Coach: Adam Callow (3rd Season, 12-23)
Key Returners: Cara Burkall (5’10” Sr); Claire LaVigne (5’8” Jr, 7 PPG, 4 RPG, 2 SPG); Erin LaVigne (5’5” Sr, 10 PPG, 3 APG, 3 SPG); Grace Staniforth (5’10” Sr); Katherine Rauch (5’8” Sr); McKenna Gentry (5’9” Sr, 11 PPG, 4 RPG, 3 SPG)
Notable Newcomers: Carrie Ladd (5’5” Jr); Natalie Rich (5’8” Jr)
Outlook: The Crusaders battled through some adversity last year, and seemed to be turning the corner with a pair of wins in the season’s final week. They did not get the chance to compete in the MHSAA Tournament. Coach Callow’s crew is experienced, returning all five starters and every player on the roster but one. A defensively-oriented team, MCC will need to overcome some size deficiencies on the glass. The Crusaders will also look to find a boost in perimeter shooting.
First Game: Tuesday 11/30 vs Potter’s House
Last Season: 21-2, lost in Division 2 State Championship Game
Head Coach: Nate Thomasma (7th season, 66-66)
Key Returners: Emmerson Goodin (5’10” Sr); Grace Painter (5’9” Jr); Jaxi Long (5’9” Sr); Kayla Fisk (5’10” Sr); Lily Swinehart (Sr)
Notable Newcomers: Barbara Toth (5’7” Jr); Iris Herrera (5’5” Jr); Isabella Welch (5’5” Soph); Lyda Lathrop (5’8” Jr); Maria Riddering (5’7” Soph)
Outlook: The Lions made a phenomenal run to the State Championship game last year, falling to Portland. Coach Thomasma’s team brings back a large chunk of their nucleus from last season, but they did lose some of their key leaders such as Anna Brummel and Jaylee Long. “We need players to step up and fill the leadership roles we lost last year”, Thomasma shared.
First Game: Tuesday 11/30 vs Shelby
Orchard View Cardinals
Last Season: 0-19, lost in District Quarterfinals
Head Coach: Ron Gates (3rd Season, 0-40)
Key Returners: Johnia Heath (5’8” Jr); Mia Martin (5’9” Jr); Tionne Steward (5’4” Jr)
Notable Newcomers: Liz Estelle (5’10” Jr)
Outlook: The Cardinals have lost 45 straight contests, dating back to February 2019. Despite those setbacks, there is a great turnout at Orchard View this year. There are fourteen girls on the varsity team, four seniors and ten juniors. Seven of those players have varsity experience, and seven players are between 5’8” and 6’2”, so it is a big Cardinals team in both senses of the word. “I love my team’s attitude and their willingness to do what’s necessary to get better,” Gates shared. “We need to learn how to win, and that starts with developing chemistry, taking better care of the ball, and being in better physical condition.”
First Game: Tuesday 11/30 at Godwin Heights
Ottawa Hills Bengals
Last Season: 0-16, lost in District Quarterfinals
Head Coach: Kirk Nash (1st Season)
Key Returners: Alicia Robinson (Sr); Jayla Luckett (Soph); Ra’Dayzia Mabry (Sr)
Outlook: The Bengals have lost their last 24 games dating back to February 2020. This year, Kirk Nash takes over the varsity program after four seasons as an assistant and JV coach. He is excited about his group, that is extremely athletic. Both Mabry and Robinson stated at Media Day that they were excited to finish their career with Nash, who was their JV coach as freshman. Jayla Luckett comes off an All-Conference campaign, looking to grow as a better all-around threat.
First Game: Monday 11/29 at Kalamazoo Loy Norrix
Last Season: 13-7, lost in Regional Semifinals
Head Coach: Brad Wilson (5th Season, 62-29)
Key Returners: Alyssa Wypych (Jr, Michigan Tech Commit); Elle Irwin (Sr, Ferris State Commit)
Outlook: The Rams captured a District Championship last winter, and they have their eyes set on repeating this year. In addition, Coach Wilson’s Rams will be back in the thick of the OK Red race. Irwin and Wypych give this team plenty of star power to contend.
First Game: Friday 12/3 vs Byron Center
Last Season: 10-9, lost in District Semifinals
Head Coach: Sarah Wolting (12th season, 156-88)
Key Returners: Ella Olmstead (5’9” Sr); Kendall Zoulek (5’9” Sr, 13 PPG, 8 RPG); Lauren Brown (6’0” Sr, 8 RPG)
Notable Newcomers: Molli Schultz (5’4” Soph)
Outlook: There is leadership and experience at the top with the three seniors. This team has a strength in the frontcourt as well, with a size advantage on many opponents. It’s a small team in terms of numbers (nine girls), so playing sound defense to remain out of foul trouble will be a key. “This is a special group for me, especially the seniors,” Wolting shared. “This group of girls have been playing together since about third grade, so our team chemistry is very strong. They are always having fun together on and off the floor.”
First Game: Tuesday 11/30 at Newaygo
West Catholic Falcons
Last Season: 16-1, lost in Regional Finals
Head Coach: Jill VanderEnde (9th Season, 98-68)
Key Returners: Abbey Kimball (Sr, Michigan State Commit); Cadence Dykstra (Jr, Toledo Commit)
Outlook: The Falcons have lost just two games over the past two seasons. They return a 1-2 punch that is as lethal as they come in Dykstra and Kimball. Kimball should be a Miss Basketball candidate this winter, as she looks to help West Catholic make another deep run in March.
First Game: Friday 12/3 at East Grand Rapids
West Michigan Lutheran Mustangs
Last Season: 3-6
Head Coach: David Miller (1st Season)
Key Returners: Brekkon Godbold (Jr); Carlie Toering (Sr); Graetel Romero (Sr)
Notable Newcomers: Hailey Cutler (Jr)
Outlook: It’s a new era of Mustangs basketball, as David Miller takes over the reins. The former Wayland Wildcat basketball player and current pastor at St Paul Lutheran in Caledonia will inject some new energy and schemes to this program. “It’s the perfect marriage of my pastoral calling and my love of basketball,” Miller shared. “I’m extremely excited to be here.” It’s a young team with only seven players on the roster, but they are relying on the “3 C’s” to create a foundation. “We draw the 3 C’s in a triangle,” Miller shared. “‘Christ’ being the top of the triangle, ‘Competent’ and ‘Confident’ being the bottom corners. We are also running the triangle offense, so the girls have bought into these ideas.” Godbold and Cutler are two players on this team that are capable of having big scoring nights, though everyone will have the opportunity to provide offensively for WML this winter.
First Game: Tuesday 12/7 at Barry County Christian
West Ottawa Panthers
Last Season: 11-8, lost in District Semifinals
Head Coach: Paul Chapman (5th Season at WO, 9th Season Overall, 48-35 at WO, 103-67 Overall)
Key Returners: Ella Van Wieren (5’10” Sr); Gabby Reynolds (5’10” Soph); Grace Gerrits (5’11” Sr); Grace Pedersen (5’7” Sr); Molly Borski (5’6” Sr); Natalie Wilcox (5’11” Sr)
Outlook: The Panthers are an extremely experienced group with nine returning players. Four of those girls are third-year varsity players. Gabby Reynolds earned all-league honors last year, while Borski was honorable mention. West Ottawa has posted four consecutive winning seasons for the first time in 40 years. They appear to have the pieces to continue that streak this winter.
First Game: Tuesday 11/30 at Gull Lake